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Getting Your Rental Deposit Back

If you have ever rented a property, you will know that nine times out of ten trying to get your deposit back is a nightmare.

Most contracts state that the house ‘must be returned in the same condition it was let’ with a clause allowing for ‘wear and tear’.

Unfortunately as many have learned this is a vague enough statement to allow a wild variation of interpretation. While there are many good and fair landlords who will simply expect their property to be returned in a clean and undamaged state realising that someone has in fact been living there for a year, others will push the legality of ‘wear and tear’ to its foreseeable limits… and beyond. Expecting their tenants not to touch anything and conveniently forgetting that the wallpaper was peeling and the carpet was stained before you got there, they’re planning on spending your deposit on newly carpeting the property and maybe have a couple hundred left over to go towards their summer holidays.

Not having this?

Good!

Here are some handy tips and tricks that will go a long way in getting you your security deposit back when you decide to move.

Getting you rental deposit back

Do your homework:

While it might not be the most exciting thing it’ll go a long way in keeping you safe from losing out in the long run. Review the lease carefully so that you can see what kind of damage could end up costing you your deposit after you leave. For example if your building doesn’t allow pets, maybe hold off and find somewhere more appropriate for you and your furry friend.

Also being aware of your rights as a tenant will go a long way in getting you your deposit back. While back rent, cleaning and repair costs may put a dent in your deposit, things like worn out carpet, minor nicks and scuffs fall under ‘normal wear and tear’ which landlords are not allowed to charge you for.

One last thing before signing the lease, always do a web search for the landlord and the property. If other people have had issues before you and weren’t satisfied with the result, they likely contacted someone about it or at least had a rant on the internet, this might save you from making the same mistake.

Photograph absolutely everything:

Everything. The walls, the ceiling, the carpet. Each and every room. When you first move in (before you unpack) and when you move out (after you’ve moved all of your items back out). Photographic evidence is your best friend when attempting to get your deposit back and if you decide to dispute any charges, you will need it. Time and date stamped photos are the best evidence as they’re more difficult to dispute.

 

Fill in the inventory:

 

Alongside your photographs fill in the inventory, including (most importantly) existing wear and tear on the property. Scrapes, scuffs, stains, record every bit of damage or wear and tear you find and have it signed by your landlord as soon as possible, that way you won’t be charged for damage done by previous tenants misadventures.

 

Beware adhesive marks:

 

Just a few small oily little marks can mean a bill for repainting an entire wall, or even a whole room. Invest in a matching tester pot of paint, pray it’s the right shade and paint over any small marks. Even if you do end up having to do a whole wall or room to match up the colour, it’ll still be cheaper than if your landlord employs a decorator, or decides to keep your cash and do the job themselves.

 

Do not make changes without written permission:

 

If you’re unsure of what you’re allowed to do in terms of customising your space, a good rule of thumb is to err on the side of caution. Put that vibrant paint away until you get explicit written permission from your landlord, the same goes for installing new fixtures or any renovations to the space.

 

Don’t put off repairs:

 

If something in your property stops working properly, it’s usually the responsibility of the landlord to pay for repairs. However if you wait too long to report the issue and something else ends up getting damaged as a result of it the landlord may dump the costs on you for not speaking up sooner. When you notice something that needs fixing in your rental property, immediately report it to the landlord in writing (so that you can keep a copy for future security) and verbally too so they can’t say they didn’t know about it.

 

Take note of your meters:

 

Take meter readings on the day your lease is up so that you have a record of figures and the date they were taken. Take a photo of the meters as proof.

 

Don’t be afraid to negotiate:

 

If you’ve lived there for five years with little to no work done, things are not going to be the same as when you first moved in. However this will be down to negotiation and hopefully a reasonable landlord.

 

Preliminary inspection:

 

Invite your landlord around a month or two before you’re planning to move out for a preliminary inspection. They can use it as an opportunity to point out anything they’re not happy with and this gives you an opportunity to fix it. Use your inventory as a guide and have someone who doesn’t live at the property present to act as a witness.

 

Be wary:

 

Ok, maybe not, but if this is your first time renting, never assume that because your landlord seems nice that they will be lenient at the end of the lease. Odds are they won’t be.

 

Reasons why a deposit might be withheld:

 

Rent arrears: If at the end of the tenancy, there is rent outstanding, the landlord may retain part or all of the deposit to cover the rent arrears.

Damage above normal wear and tear: Deductions may be made or the entire deposit held if there has been damage that is considered above regular wear and tear.

 

Examples of this could be:

 

  • A broken window
  • Holes in the wall.
  • Leaving litter or personal items in the property.
  • Leaving the property in an unhygienic or unsafe condition.
  • Not returning the property in a clean manner.
  • Items broken or missing from the inventory.
  • Outstanding utility bills and other charges.

 

Outstanding utility bills and other charges:

 

If the tenant has outstanding bills such as gas or electricity and the utility bill is in the landlord’s name, the landlord may withhold part or all of the deposit to cover these costs.

 

The tenant should retain a copy of all the bills paid to ensure that the payment is applicable to what is owed.

 

Insufficient notice:

 

If a tenant provides insufficient notice of their termination of the tenancy, or they terminate a fixed term tenancy before the end of the agreed term, the landlord may keep the deposit to make up for loss of income.

 

Checklist for the return of the security deposit:

 

  • The following checklist may be useful when returning or seeking the return of a security deposit:
  • Has the correct notice of termination been provided in writing?
  • Has the rent been paid in full?
  • Have meter readings of the utilities been taken and arranged for final payment?
  • Have all belongings been removed?
  • Has the property been returned in a similar condition in which it was provided apart from normal wear and tear?
  • Has the property been cleaned?
  • Has the signed-off inventory been checked to ensure that all items are present and not damaged?
  • Has all the rubbish been removed?
  • Have you taken photographs at the start and end of the tenancy?

It may sound very simple and it is, but moves can be both stressful and exciting for those involved and it’s very easy to put things on the long finger when your schedule is already full. But if you keep a level of awareness, follow this check list and remember to take pictures and submit photographs of any issues you come across during your tenancy, there is no reason you shouldn’t be able to get your security deposit back in full.

For further information on your rights as a tenant you can follow this link:

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